There’s something exciting about shopping at a yard sale. First of all, it’s a great way to find things you need for much less than you’d pay if you went to the store and picked up a brand-new item. Then there’s the joy of buying antique items. Anyone who’s ever bought an antique at a yard sale has secretly dreamed that the item might be worth far more than they paid for it. For a man named Emil Knodell, that dream came true. After buying an old dresser, he literally found treasure hidden inside worth thousands. Here’s his story.
Like many retired folks, Emil Knodell has a hobby. He loves to go around his community on weekends and scour yard sales for “treasures.” He certainly isn’t alone. Many people love to hit up yard sales and estate sales with the hope of picking up an item that’s worth untold fortunes.
Knodell lives in Missouri City, Texas, and one day while out driving, he came across an estate sale. Little did he know that he’d find something that would seriously change his life and turn his hobby into a viral news story.
When you’ve seen as many yard sales as Emil, you know when you come across something special. You get a sense of what things are worth, so it’s easy to spot a really great deal. When he stopped at a yard sale on one fateful day, nothing immediately jumped out at him.
As far as yard sales went, this one seemed to be pretty ordinary. A third party was actually running the estate sale, and that usually meant that the owner wanted to get rid of as much as possible, meaning he could probably find a deal. It also meant that “experts” had helped to price items, so he wasn’t expecting to find any serious treasures.
Rolling The Dice
Emil decided to browse through the sale anyway, not expecting to find anything truly valuable. He knew that the agency running the sale would have taken measures to ensure that any “diamonds in the rough” were accurately priced. Still, he had an open mind and decided to do some shopping.
Hitting up yard and estate sales aren’t always going to result in finding a treasure, but in Emil’s case, his decision was about to pay off. He was about to make a major find that would put some serious cash in his pocket.
As Emil browsed the sale, he came across something that caught his eye. It was an old dresser. With its marble top and three drawers, it wasn’t exactly anything unique, but the note said that it was made sometime in the 1890s.
Emil figured that, given the age, the value would probably only go up so he decided that he needed to buy it. He gave the piece of furniture a quick once over, opening the drawers and checking for damage. The dresser seemed in good shape and the three drawers were empty. Content that it was a decent buy, he forked over the cash.
A Deal, Afterall
Emil wasn’t expecting to find a great deal, but he managed to snag one with dresser. The estate sale had been going on for three days and the company was looking to get rid of everything on the final day. With that said, they dropped the price of the dresser from $300 to $100 for Emil.
He knew a deal when he saw one, so he jumped all over that price. As it turned out, even if Emil would have paid full price for the dresser, he still would have gotten away with the deal of the century! It would still be a bit before Emil realized that, though.
A Serious Return On Investment
Emil knew that picking up an antique dresser for $100 was a heck of a deal and that he was already money ahead. While the price was certainly something to be happy about, Emil was about to find that the dresser held even more profitable secrets.
Not even the family that was selling the dresser realized what kind of treasures were inside. Emil would soon realize just how lucky he was and that he’d certainly hit a jackpot with his purchase. His return on investment would end up being about 150 times more than he paid!
Emil forked over his hundred bucks for his purchase and then started to move the dresser so he could load it into his truck. As he grabbed the piece of furniture, he realized that it was far too heavy for him to move by himself.
On the outside, the dresser seemed pretty normal; it was just old and heavy. He got some help from someone else to load the dresser, and as they picked it up, Emil began to suspect that not everything about the dresser was as it seemed.
Something Doesn’t Sound Right
As Emil and his helper lifted the dresser to put in the back of his truck, they realized that something was off. The antique piece of furniture was made of wood, and they knew that it was going to be heavy. But as they struggled to get the dresser into the truck, they started to think that it was way too heavy to be an empty dresser.
Emil didn’t exactly know what was wrong at first, but he knew that something wasn’t right. They thought that if they laid the dresser on its side it might be easier to load. That’s when they heard a strange sound. Something inside the dresser was rattling around. It wasn’t empty, after all.
After hearing the ruckus coming from inside the dresser, Emil and the men helping him load it in his truck started checking out the piece of furniture, trying to find the source of the nose. Despite their efforts though, they just couldn’t seem to find what was banging around inside.
By this time, a crowd had gathered around Emil and his purchase. They were just as curious as to what the noise was. They all knew that the dresser had some kind of secret, but they just hadn’t found it yet. Determined to find the source, Emil kept investigating.
A Strange Idea
As Emil and the other men started to dig through the dresser, the idea came upon them that it must contain a secret compartment of some kind. The three main drawers were completely empty, so it was obvious that whatever noise they were hearing wasn’t coming from the obvious locations.
Convinced that there must be another secret drawer somewhere, they continued to poke and prod at the dresser. They would soon find the source of the noise, and they would all be shocked at what was causing it.
The Final Move
As Emil and his helpers turned the dresser every which way in an attempt to find the secret compartment, it finally dawned on them to tilt the dresser on its back. As soon as they did, they realized that the secret compartment had been in front of them the entire time.
They had been focusing on the three main drawers of the dresser, but they failed to see a simple board at the very bottom of the dresser. When the dresser was upright, it simply looked like part of the base. As they looked closer, they saw a couple of holes that looked like there might have once been a handle there.
Front And Center
Emil would later say that the secret compartment was the perfect hiding place. When you looked at the front of the dresser, all you saw was three regular drawers with a simple base. You’d never guess that the base was a secret compartment.
It was hiding right there in plain sight and Emil said you’d never think to look there. Clearly, he was right. Nobody, including the third-party sales company or the family had thought to look there. But Emil still had to open the hidden drawer and see what was inside.
A Detail Missed
By the time Emil had bought the dresser, there were many eyes that had looked over the piece of furniture, and none of them had spotted the secret compartment. It’s one thing to expect appraisers, who might not be familiar with the piece to miss a detail like that.
But it’s pretty surprising to think that the family of the original owner knew nothing about the secret compartment. The back story suggested a theory. The dresser had been inherited and passed down over a couple of generations, suggesting that the compartment might have gone unopened for generations.
After discovering the location of the secret compartment, Emil opened it up and that’s when he realized just what a deal he had gotten on the dresser. He’d already gotten a heck of a deal on the piece, but when he opened the fourth drawer, he found his hidden treasure.
Given that the sale was run by a professional company, he hadn’t expected to find any once-in-a-lifetime discoveries, but it turned out that’s exactly what happened. The treasure inside was more valuable than he could have imagined.
What A Rush
Emil would later say that his adrenaline was surging when he opened the secret drawer. A good-sized crowd had gathered by now, and they were all holding their collective breath. It was the kind of story they’d heard about but never expected to see for themselves.
They wondered if maybe there was some buried treasure hidden inside. It turns out they were right. The secret drawer was full of jewelry and gold. Everyone was shocked, at first, and many of the items were pretty historically significant.
At some point, every person who regularly hits up yard sales mentally pictures themselves as a pirate in the olden days, hoping to score their very own stash of hidden treasure. Emil was no different, and on the day he bought the antique dresser, that’s exactly what he’d found.
The fourth drawer was stuffed full of old jewels, personal effects, and even currency from all over the world. What’s more, many of those items dated all the way back to the Civil War! For a mere $100, Emil had discovered a drawer full of treasures that were not only monetarily, but historically valuable, too.
What’s The Value
Emil had only paid $100 for the dresser and, in turn, all of the contents of the fourth drawer. He didn’t have the contents “officially” appraised, but estimates suggest that all of the additional gold and jewels is worth somewhere around $15,000! That’s a return of 15,000%. Not bad for a day out hitting the yard sales.
The dresser was built in 1890, and by all estimates, most of the contents in the hidden drawer had been there since shortly after that date. As some of the items dated back to the Civil War, some of the jewelry may be even older. The real question was what Emil planned to do with his newfound treasure.
A Moral Dilemma
Emil suddenly had to make a serious decision. Sure, he’d found a treasure trove in the hidden drawer, but there was a question as to whether or not it actually belonged to him. He could have sold the contents of the drawer and made a pretty hefty amount of money.
But he wondered if that would have been the right thing to do. After all, in his mind, he had only purchased the dresser, not necessarily what was in it. But, since nobody seemed to know about the jewels and gold inside, there was also the question of who the goods really belonged to.
What To Do?
Emil had a serious decision to make, and for many, it wouldn’t be easy. The treasures inside the dresser were certainly special, and many of them were likely priceless. There are plenty of people out there who have looked at the situation as a “too good to be true” scenario.
He wasn’t sure if he could morally live with himself if he kept or sold all of the items for himself. As it turned out, Emil really didn’t have to think about the situation for long. He came up with his answer pretty quick.
Making A Decision
Emil didn’t agree with the “finders keepers” mentality. While there are plenty of people who would have kept the goods for themselves, he certainly wasn’t one of them. He’d paid a hundred bucks for the dresser and that’s all he intended to keep.
Emil is also a veteran and has always had a strong sense of what’s the right and wrong thing to do. So, he’d made up his mind that he didn’t want to keep the loot. But the question still remained as to what he was going to do with the treasure.
Giving It Back
Without a second thought, Emil decided to give all of the jewelry and gold back to the estate sale company. In turn, they gave all of the loot back to the family of the person who originally owned the dresser.
When asked why he’d done it, Emil simply said that he’d paid for the dresser, not what was inside it. He went on to say that if he kept the stuff, he could never feel right about it. That moral compass is what made his decision so easy.
A Quick Search
When it came to tracking down the rightful owner of the treasure, the search didn’t take very long at all. The home where the sale was taking place belonged to the executor of the estate, and he was actually on hand while the third-party company conducted all of the business.
When he found out about what was going on, he had joined the rest of the crowd as Emil started searching for the secret compartment. When the treasure was revealed, he was just as shocked as everyone else who was standing around.
The former owner of the dresser said that he remembered seeing the piece of furniture at his grandparents’ house, but he never gave it much thought. He had no idea that the dresser contained a secret compartment, let alone that there may be hidden treasures inside.
He was also very thankful that Emil decided to give the precious heirlooms back to him. In turn, Emil said that there was never a question as to him keeping the jewels. He knew he needed to return them to the rightful owner. It was a great find, but one that somebody else should keep.
Most people would agree that Emil did the right thing by returning the treasure inside. As it turns out, not everyone agreed with Emil’s big-hearted move. When the story made it to Facebook, several people thought that he should have kept all of the jewels and memorabilia that was inside.
Regardless of what folks on Facebook think, Emil made a decision and he believed it was the right one at the time. He didn’t feel like he’d be able to live with himself if he’d kept the items. There were plenty of other people who fully supported his decision.
While there were some people who felt Emil should have kept the treasure, the majority of folks felt like he had absolutely done the right thing. They agreed that when he’d forked over the $100, he was only buying the dresser, not whatever might be inside.
Many of the commenters on Facebook agreed that the memorabilia likely had sentimental value to the rightful owner and that returning it showed just how honest Emil truly was. For others, Emil’s story was more than enough inspiration to get out and do some antiquing themselves!